I’m reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, a story that parallels the building of the World’s Columbian Exposition (better known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893) and a serial-killing physician who lived, worked, and murdered nearby. The Exposition’s architects came from many parts of the country, most notably Chicago and New York. They all seemed to travel extensively while needing to converse constantly about many of the Fair’s details. By the late 19th century, of course, the telegraph made communications that used to take days, weeks, or even months to complete nearly instant. Even so, most people conversed extensively through letters. This no doubt helped them maintain important relationships, shape their opinions through dialogue, gain exposure to experiences they might never actually personally have, and conduct business. Without question, we have these same needs and motivations for conversing today. Oct.15Blog

We’re told that our world is shrinking and by many measures, it certainly is. Globalization is the term we use to describe the process of international integration that arises from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture. And, with the Internet, social media, and Google Translate, we now have the means to exchange ideas and perspectives instantly. But do we?

I had the great fortune of being invited to attend and present at the Norwegian Parking Association’s annual conference in Tønsberg, Norway, on behalf of IPI. My presentation was about technology and innovation trends; I believe the organizers were most interested in comparing progress in Norway to that taking place in the U.S. and elsewhere outside. I gave a similar presentation in Sweden last April and have enjoyed the chance to speak with other parking professionals in Ireland, Italy, Brazil, and Australia during the past five years. I’ve learned about parking issues, successes, and challenges, and made friends from around the world, and I’m convinced more than ever of the power of global relationships. We must keep an external perspective to continue making progress in the parking profession. Though not everyone has the opportunity to travel as I have, we all still need to stay as connected as possible and keep an outward focus to grow and innovate. But how can we do this?

What if there was a parking pen-pal program that paired parking professionals from around the globe? Participants with similar positions could discuss in detail their challenges, solutions, and ideas, and the exchange of information could foster important dialogue and build friendships spanning miles, cultures, and backgrounds. IPI has the global span and the relationships already established with peer organizations and the Global Parking Associations Leadership (GPALs) Summit to further such a program. With it, we could go beyond sharing cute cat videos and messages of less than140 characters, and move to something more personally gratifying and potentially impactful.

What do you think?